Dez Bryant: 'Can't be distracted'
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant wants to be paid what he believes he deserves, but he plans to table his contract negotiations with the team if he doesn't have a new deal by the beginning of the regular season.
"I don't want to talk about it anymore," Bryant said Monday evening after an event to announce the Cowboys' corporate sponsorship deal with Swiss luxury watch company Hublot. "Put it behind me. I love this game. Either way, I feel like I can't be distracted once I'm on the football field."
Bryant, who is due to be paid $1.78 million this season in the final year of his rookie deal, and agent Eugene Parker have been in discussions with the Cowboys about a lucrative, long-term extension for months.
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The sides were not close to an agreement as the Cowboys opened training camp. But Bryant believes progress has been made and said there's a "big chance" a deal could be struck before the Cowboys open the season Sept. 7 against the San Francisco 49ers.
"We're in conversation," Bryant said. "I'll say that. We're talking. We are talking. It only gets better from there. Let's see what happens."
Added owner and general manager Jerry Jones: "He obviously feels in the right circumstances he wants to get something done. We do, too. That can be good."
The Cowboys signed left tackle Tyron Smith to an eight-year extension worth $97.6 million with $40 million guaranteed earlier this month. It's the largest contract ever signed by an offensive lineman.
The Cowboys made several salary cap-cutting moves, such as releasing defensive end DeMarcus Ware, to put the franchise in financial position to be able to sign Smith and Bryant to rich extensions this year.
Bryant, 25, who tied for the NFL lead in touchdown catches (25) and ranked sixth in receiving yards (2,615) over the last two seasons, has stated numerous times that he wants to be one of the NFL's highest-paid receivers.
Detroit's Calvin Johnson is the league's highest-paid receiver with a seven-year, $113.5 million deal that has $48.75 million in guaranteed money. Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald also has a deal with an average annual value of more than $16 million. Seattle's Percy Harvin and Miami's Mike Wallace are the only other receivers with contracts worth more than $12 million per year.
Bryant's asking price is in that range.
"I believe a player should get paid what he deserves," Bryant said. "If I'm top five, I'm top five. If I'm top three, I'm top three. If I'm top two, I'm top two. It is what it is."
The Cowboys have leverage in the contract talks because they have the option of using the franchise tag on Bryant in each of the next two offseasons. Bryant would be paid more than $12 million per year in that case, but he'd prefer to sign a long-term deal with significant guaranteed money.
"Do I like the wait? No," Bryant said. "But do I understand the wait? Yeah, I understand it. I understand it clearly. But at the same time, the No. 1 goal for me is me out here with my teammates going to war with them. That's exactly what I'm focused on."
Bryant said he has "no clue" why the sides have yet to reach a deal, but he's adamant that it won't be on his mind once the season starts. He intends to make sure of that by tabling contract talks until next offseason.
"Once the season starts, I'm all in," Bryant said. "I've got this team to worry about. ...The work that I put in, the love, the real love, the real passion that I have for this game overtakes everything.
"I honestly feel like what I do sooner or later, I'm going to get what I deserve. I believe it. That's why I don't stress about. There's no need to stress about it. It's coming. I know it's coming. So no need to worry about it."
Jones appreciates that Bryant doesn't want the business side of the NFL affecting his focus on football.
"That's not uncommon and it makes all the sense in the world," Jones said. "I know Dez, know him well and he wants to have his mind on nothing but football. Obviously, he wants to be responsible as it pertains to his business, but it's a pleasure to have someone that the only thing other than his family that matters to him is playing football for the Dallas Cowboys.
"I know he wants to be able to walk out there against San Francisco and not think about anything else. That's a plus for everybody."